The Reliques of Tolti-Aph — 30 of 57

Graham Nelson

Release 1

Section E(a) - The Budless Grove

A room called In the Budless Grove is east of the Exalted Throne. "These eastward demesnes were once formal gardens: none more formal, in fact, since they comprised the Maze of the Royal Beasts, the traditional proving-ground for mages who wished to be advanced in the king's service. Of the original structure, nothing remains except the trellis-work archway to the east, the bordering hedge obscuring all sight of what may lie within, the stone bench - in fact, more or less everything survives, it seems."

The Exalted Throne is up from the Budless Grove.

A ring of ghostly never-children is a person in the Budless Grove. "But not perhaps by natural causes, for a ring of ghostly never-children, pallid things with shallow, violent eyes, join hands to dance and dance again around the bench." Understand "never" and "children" and "ghosts" and "pallid" as the never-children.

Instead of attacking the never-children, say "There is an abrupt shifting of scale. The giggling of the children grows to a booming thunder, from far, far above.

Abruptly you realise that this is a fight which may begin while you are the height of a blade of recently-cut grass. Each of the never-children, you'd guess, has a STR of maybe 4, and you doubt if they could deal out more than 1d4 of damage between them. On the other hand you now have a STR of 1/10th...

So it's a lucky thing that, treating the episode as a game, they allow you to return to normal size. You step back involuntarily."

Instead of kissing the never-children, say "You might get close enough. Whether you'd get back again..."

The description of the never-children is "As the name suggests, they were never children. They are not undead, for they never lived. They - well. Let's just leave it at that."

Instead of giving something to the never-children, say "'We doethn't want giftth!' they cry out in derision. This whole lisping thing is going to get old quite quickly. 'We demandth... thacrifithe.' Mmm." Instead of asking the never-children about, say "They yelp with amusement at the idea that they should answer your questions."

Understand "sacrifice [something]" as a mistake ("There are as many forms of sacrifice as there are minor cults. You will have to say how.").

The stone bench is a scenery supporter in the Budless Grove.

The Orange Flower of the Postulant is a thing. Instead of rubbing the Orange Flower, say "What, you think you can just rub it off? One born every minute." The Orange Flower is flesh.

Instead of entering the archway in the Budless Grove, try going east.

The cowardice count is a number that varies. The never-children can be satisfied or unsatisfied. The never-children are unsatisfied.

Instead of attacking a scroll:

remove the noun from play;

say "You tear up [the noun], and it loses coherence as it melts into thinnest air. Apparently only magic really gave it any substance, and that is now gone.";

if the player is in the Budless Grove and the never-children are unsatisfied:

now the never-children are satisfied;

say "'The magic-uther tore up the [inscribed spell of the noun] all for uth!' one of the vile little creatures says, and the others make grudging gestures. 'All wight. Can come play.'".

Understand the command "play" as "sing". Understand the command "dance" as "sing". Instead of singing in the presence of the never-children, say "The merest look from them would be enough to stop you, but in fact they give you quite a lot more than the merest look. At any rate - you stop."

Instead of entering or climbing the stone bench:

if the never-children are unsatisfied, say "'We don't let jutht anyone play!' giggles one of the never-children. 'Firtht, you have to sacrifithe something. Something no magic-uther would ever sacrifithe.'" instead;

if the player is affected by compel postulant, say "The never-children glower at you." instead;

now the player is affected by compel postulant;

now the Orange Flower of the Postulant is part of the player;

restore the health of the player;

say "As you sit, one of the ghostly never-children dabs your forehead with a practised brush, painting a flower motif. They chant in a patty-cake-like rhyme, 'Postu- postu- postulant, Now you are compelled!' and, what with all the mad, scamp-like laughter, you spend so long thinking about how ghastly they are as well as ghostly that you realise far too late that the rhyme is actually a spell. You jump up again, feeling too stupid to feel angry.";

change the cowardice count to 1;

award 5 points.

Instead of casting magic missile at in the presence of the never-children, say "'Who'th got a magic mithile then!' lisps one of the never-children unbearably, and their cackles become so monstrously elongated that, well, somehow you change your mind. Between them, they may be the most powerful sorcerer you have ever met."

Every turn when the player is in the Budless Grove and the cowardice count is not 0 and the maze victory count is 0:

increase the cowardice count by 1;

if the cowardice count is 2, stop;

if the cowardice count is 3, say "One of the never-children slaps you in the face. 'Coward!'";

if the cowardice count > 3:

say "The never-children slap you harder, and there is a nastier overtone to their taunting. 'Coward! You must enter the Labyrinth!' The blow has real effect";

if the player is affected by aerial shield, say ", and your aerial shield is no hope when they're reaching up from below";

let the slap strength be the cowardice count;

decrease the slap strength by 3;

make the player take the slap strength points of damage.

Before taking inventory: if the player is affected by compel postulant, say "Your forehead bears the Orange Flower of the Postulant, age-old symbol of one held by the 'compel postulant' spell."

Before going to the Exalted Throne when the player is affected by compel postulant:

if the maze victory count is 0, say "Your forehead aches with greater agony as you take each step of the ziggurat, and you are eventually compelled to return." instead;

now the player is not affected by compel postulant;

remove the Orange Flower from play.

Instead of examining the Orange Flower:

if the player carries something metal (called the reflective surface), say "In [the reflective surface] you see reflected the Orange Flower of the Postulant on your forehead, a pretty many-petalled flower like a saxifrage. You last saw one of these on, wait a moment, an old wood-panel in the unrenovated part of the Master Herbiarist's classroom. You used to look at this when he was collapsed by sneezing - why they appointed a Master Herbiarist with hay-fever, the gods only know - and now it comes back to you with an uneasy jolt: the brave young figure, Flower on forehead, setting off into the verdant maze, never seeing the three-necked Green Hydra waiting just behind the first corner." instead;

say "It seems to be fuzzy, thin and brownish. No - wait! Those are your eyebrows."

The trellis-work archway is an open trapped door. "So-called because it is the work of Mrs Trellis of North Wales, an indefatigable witch."[1] The trellis-work archway is east of the Budless Grove and west of the Hedge Archway. The trellis-work archway is scenery. The trellis-work archway is wood.

Instead of going east in the Budless Grove when the player is not affected by compel postulant, say "'Wanth to play in our garden of [number of labyrinth rooms in words] beds,' giggles one of the never-children. 'Can't!' screams another, then another. 'Not unleth...' They laugh, if by laugh we mean a thoroughly ill-intentioned threat."

After going east from the Budless Grove: say "You try your very hardest to remember what used to happen to postulants, once they had crossed the archway. All you can recall from the Master-Sage's lessons is that some insanely powerful geas protected the Maze's secrets by ensuring that if anyone were ever to be told the story of a postulant, even in another world, even if the story were being told by some kind of mechanical contraption - that any who listened or read would immediately suffer DEATH should the postulant in the story come to that same unhappy end."; continue the action.

Note

[1]. I really thought nobody would get this joke, but in fact everyone did.